Ballykinler barracks sign 051109 CREDIT PA.jpg
Northern Ireland

Officer Called Young Soldier Rude Name After He Self-Harmed, Inquest Hears

The alleged incident took place after two soldiers took their own lives at Ballykinler Barracks.

Ballykinler barracks sign 051109 CREDIT PA.jpg

An entrance sign for Abercorn Barracks in Ballykinler, County Down (Picture: PA). 

A senior officer called a young soldier a "selfish dick" after he self-harmed, an inquest has been told.

The alleged name-calling took place at Abercorn Barracks in Ballykinler, County Down, where Lance Corporal James Ross and Rifleman Darren Mitchell took their own lives in December 2012 and February 2013.

Both soldiers were members of 2 RIFLES and had completed tours of Afghanistan.

An inquest into both deaths is being held in Ballymena, County Antrim, and heard from a friend of Rifleman Mitchell via video link from Leeds.

He has been granted anonymity and is referred to during court proceedings as Soldier D.

Soldier D was one of three people who found Rifleman Mitchell dead in his room and he was also one of several soldiers who self-harmed during that period.

He described finding Rifleman Mitchell dead as "heart-breaking".

On two occasions the three soldiers were sent for a week to a barracks in Lisburn to help them cope. However, Soldier D said one officer accused the trio of “bluffing” and using the trips to get out of work.

He added that the officer also made "sly comments" whilst they were out on parade and other soldiers laughed.

Karen Quinlivan QC, counsel for the Mitchell and Ross families, asked Soldier D how it had made him feel:

"Horrible,” he replied.

“They were meant to be there to help you, and talk to, when they are doing that, there is no one to talk to".

He also described how another officer had called him a "selfish dick" in the Guardroom after he had self-harmed.

He said the incident had made him feel "even worse".

Philip Aldworth, counsel for the Ministry of Defence, put to Soldier D that other higher-ranking officers had been supportive and that he had received medical attention and support from the Army.

Soldier D named two senior officers he viewed as supportive.

Rifleman Mitchell's mother, Carol Mitchell, said a "perfect storm" had contributed to her son’s death.

"He thought everyone was leaving, he was exhausted, his back pay hadn't come through, he had had a row with Cher [his girlfriend] and he had just got back after being away for a long time," Mrs Mitchell told the inquest.

She added that she did not blame the Army but thought more could have been done to help him.